A fresh perspective
Separating a dissertation into manageable chunks from the initial stages of structural planning gives you freedom to start afresh to write about a different but related topic once concluding another section. Access to a court, for instance, is a separate right from the right for a trial to be heard and decided within a reasonable time. It, thus, merits a separate chapter with its own introduction, subsections and conclusions.
4. ACCESS TO A COURT
4.1. Operation in Article 6
The fair, public and expeditious characteristics of judicial proceedings expressed in Article 6 would be of no value at all if there were no judicial proceedings. Thus, referring to the rule of law and avoidance of arbitrary power, principles which underlie much of the ECHR, the ECtHR has held that the right of access to a court is an element inherent in Article 6(1). Although this right is not absolute, any limitation must not restrict access to such an extent that the very essence of the right is impaired, provided that a legitimate aim is pursued with proportionality between the limitation and that aim. The potential for this right to arise in the civil jurisdiction context is high, given the intrinsic nature of the operation of jurisdiction rules.
4.2. Anti-Suit Injunctions
A denial of access to a foreign court and, therefore, a potential Article 6 violation will occur through the grant of an anti-suit injunction, which seeks to restrain foreign proceedings. This issue arose in The Kribi, where the claimants sought an anti-suit injunction to restrain Belgian proceedings brought in contravention of an exclusive jurisdiction agreement. Aikens J held that “Article 6…does not provide that a person is to have an unfettered choice of tribunal in which to pursue or defend his civil rights” . Moreover, “Article 6…does not deal at all with where the right to a [fair trial] is to be exercised by a litigant. The crucial point is that civil rights must be determined somewhere by a hearing and before a tribunal in accordance with the provisions of Article 6.”
Therefore, a court granting an anti-suit injunction, in the very limited circumstances in which it can now do so, would not be in breach of Section 6 of the HRA 1988 where another available forum exists. Contrastingly, Article 6 challenges remain for the “single forum” cases, where there is only one forum of competent jurisdiction to determine the merits of the claim, despite the cases already being treated differently. In such a case, the exemplary approach of Aikens J would easily resolve such human rights issues.
Ultimately, in a commercially welcome judgment, human rights arguments were made and received properly. Moreover, Aikens J “logically” dealt with the human rights points first. Hence the case is a working model for Fawcett’s hybrid approach where human rights should be considered first before international private law principles. Contrasting with stays producing concerns of unreasonable delays, in this context of access to a court there is more impetus to follow Fawcett’s model, particularly given that such denial of access can constitute a direct breach of Article 6, thus producing a more realistic threat of contravention of Section 6 of the HRA 1998.
4.3. Exclusive Jurisdiction Agreements and Waiving Convention Rights
Another instance pertinent to Article 6 is where a person has no access to the courts of the UK because of the enforcement of an exclusive jurisdiction agreement. Convention rights can, in general, be waived, including the right of access to a court under Article 6, which can occur where a jurisdiction agreement or agreement to arbitrate is valid and enforceable, but not where a person entered into the agreement without voluntary consensus.
Generally, rights will be waived under a jurisdiction agreement meeting the requirements of Article 23 of the Brussels Regulation. However, as Briggs and Rees note, there may be instances, somewhat unattractive, where a party is bound by such a jurisdiction agreement without voluntary consensus as such, such that his right of access to a court may not have been waived, reflecting the more prudent stance taken towards compulsory alternative dispute resolution. Notwithstanding, Article 6 will be upheld provided there is another available court.
4.4. Limitations on Jurisdiction
It is axiomatic that limitations on jurisdiction may restrict access to a court. The ECtHR has held that limitation periods are generally compatible with Article 6, particularly for reasons of legal certainty, provided that they are not applied inflexibly. This compatibility should encompass a stay under forum non conveniens for a forum barred by limitation, which is granted only where the claimant was at fault by acting unreasonably in failing to commence proceedings in the foreign court within the applicable limitation period.
Contrastingly, blanket limitations are a more difficult species. An example of a blanket exclusion on jurisdiction is the English common law Moçambique rule, which provides that title to foreign land should be determined only at the situs of the land. This may conflict with Article 6 because of a denial of access to an English court. Although this proposition may be unfounded, particularly where access to a court is available somewhere, the exclusion on jurisdiction may still be challenged on Article 6 grounds if disproportionate its aim.
Such proportionality concerns were considered in Jones v Ministry of the Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Following Al-Adsani v United Kingdom , a blanket limitation on jurisdiction was accepted because the grant of sovereign immunity, which restricted access to a court, pursued the legitimate aim of comity through compliance with international law and was proportionate. Notwithstanding, underpinning this reasoning is an inevitable tension between the interests of States and private parties, such that Mance LJ (as he then was) in the Court of Appeal produced his judgment in light of ECHR considerations, taking a more flexible approach supportive of human rights.
Mark v Mark also illustrates such inflexibility and proportionality considerations. The limitation in that case prevented access to the English courts, which may have been the only available courts, through a particular rule of public policy. This rule was therefore seen by Thorpe LJ to be incompatible with Article 6 and hence the HRA 1998. Contrastingly, in the House of Lords, Baroness Hale affirmed the decision on different grounds, dismissing ECHR considerations, such that she perhaps did not take human rights concerns entirely seriously.
Although access to some court will be available following most limitations, the few cases where access would be denied to the only available court under a limitation warrant special attention in light of protection of the right to a fair trial. Such attention has been properly given on occasion, as demonstrated by both Mance and Thorpe LJJ. However, this approach is not consistently followed, shown by the dangerous approach of Baroness Hale.
4.5. Interaction with Forum non Conveniens
In Lubbe v Cape Industries Plc, the defendant asked for a stay of proceedings. After identifying South Africa as the natural forum, the Court was faced with the argument that the stay would breach Article 6 because the complexity of the case and lack of funding were such that the claimant could not sue in that foreign court.
After applying the Spiliada principles, which provided that a stay should be refused because the claimant could not obtain justice in the foreign court, Lord Bingham then turned to the Article 6 arguments and noted simply that “I do not think article 6 supports any conclusion which is not already reached on application of Spiliada principles.” Although the right to a fair trial was acknowledged and indeed protected under the refusal to grant a stay, the procedure in reasoning lowered the importance of human rights as the Spiliada principles took precedence to application of Article 6. Thus, if the Lubbe approach was followed in the future and a stay was granted to a foreign court in which there was a risk of a flagrant breach, the court may indirectly breach Article 6 in addition to Sections 2 and 6 of the HRA 1998.
Similar techniques to that employed by Lord Bingham have been used in other forum non conveniens cases. For example, in The Polessk, the extent to which evidence showed the right to a fair trial in the St. Petersberg Court was considered under the second limb of the Spiliada test. Moreover, as discussed, reasonable delay has been considered consistently, although somewhat effectively, within this second stage of Spiliada.
As noted, these latter instances show a sufficient degree of reconciliation with at least the indirect effect of Article 6, regardless of the characterisation of the breach as one of Article 6 or otherwise, particularly because it is difficult to imagine “borderline” cases amounting to flagrant breaches of Article 6, as Fawcett suggests. This analysis can be applied equally to the facts of Lubbe where access to the foreign court clearly did not exist, such that a stay would unequivocally produce a flagrant breach. It may be suggested that other cases are not so easy to evaluate, such as in determining whether access to a court exists through lack of legal aid, as Santambrogio v Italy illustrates. Nevertheless, surely if the decision is a difficult one to make, then the breach cannot be flagrant and, as such, there cannot be an indirect breach of Article 6. However, as noted, a procedural shift in judicial reasoning will have undoubted procedural benefits, if at the very least it effects compliance with Section 2 of the HRA 1998.
Golder v. United Kingdom  ECHR 1, at .
Ibid., at -.
Ibid., at ; this includes the right to a determination of proceedings on the merits (Gorbachev v Russia, No. 3354/02, 15 February 2007.)
Ibid., at .
Winterwerp v The Netherlands  ECHR 4, at , .
Ashingdane v United Kingdom  ECHR 8, at .
OT Africa Line Ltd v Hijazy (The Kribi)  Lloyd’s Rep 76; now overruled on the specific point for decision (Turner v Grovit and Others  AC 101).
The Kribi (n131), at .
Ibid., at .
Following Turner v Grovit (n131), a court cannot grant an anti-suit injunction against a party who has commenced an action in a Brussels Convention State.
British Airways v Laker Airways  AC 58,at .
The Kribi, (n131),at .
Fawcett: 2007, pp36-37.
Pfeiffer and Plankl v Austria (1992) 14 EHRR 692; cf. Loucaides: 2003, pp48-50.
Deweer v Belgium (1979-80) 2 EHRR 439; indeed, this is a “natural consequence of [the parties’] right to regulate their mutual relations as they see fit.” (Axelsson v. Sweden, no.11960/86, 13 July 1990.)
Malmstrom v Sweden (1983) 38 DR 18.
Cf. under the common law (The Pioneer Container  2 AC 324); Briggs and Rees: 2005, p19.
E.g. a person not party to a bill of lading bound by a jurisdiction agreement between shipper and carrier.
Briggs and Rees: 2005, pp18-19.
See generally Schiavetta: 2004, paras.4.2-4.21.
Stubbings v United Kingdom  ECHR 44, at .
Briggs and Rees: 2005, p20 n.101.
Spiliada (n72), pp483-484.
British South Africa Co v Companhia de Moçambique  AC 602; for Scotland, Hewit’s Trs v Lawson (1891) 18 R 793.
Briggs and Rees: 2005, para.4.06.
 UKHL 26.
34 EHRR 273.
Cf. Markovic v Italy  ECHR 1141, which held that although there was no blanket limitation on jurisdiction through sovereign immunity and that access to a court had been afforded, access was nevertheless limited in scope, such that the applicants could not receive a decision on the merits.
 QB 699.
 EWCA Civ 168, at .
 AC 98.
Fawcett: 2007, p34.
 1 WLR 1545.
Lubbe (n157), p1561.
Further, no relevant decisions of the ECtHR were relied upon in the judgment e.g. Airey v Ireland  ECHR 3 where representation costs were “very high” and the procedure was too complex and would evoke emotions too great for the applicant to present her case. Cf. Santambrogio v Italy  ECHR 430 (post-Lubbe), where legal aid was deemed unnecessary in the circumstances.
Fawcett: 2007, p.11.